A Conversation About Islam

A friend of mine, Phil, was in town to promote his new book. We went out to lunch with another friend of ours from this area, Stan, a man who runs a multi-station radio conglomerate. We were talking about this and that when Phil mentioned an experience he had in a church in the Midwest.

Phil goes to church every week. And for awhile the church had speakers from various religions come to speak to them. One week they had a Hindu teacher come speak to the congregation, and the next week it was a Buddhist priest (this is a very open-minded church), and the third week it was a Muslim imam.

Phil said, "I couldn't believe the imam. He scared the old ladies. Every other thing he said was about cutting off someone's head." Phil looked surprised.

Now I hadn't seen either of these guys for awhile and in the meantime I had learned a lot about Islam and I hadn't really talked to many people about what I was learning. I said, "Awhile back I read the Qur'an because I wondered about Islam."

"Wondered?" asked Stan. "What do you mean?"

"Well, I've heard terrorists like Osama bin Laden quoting the Qur'an, talking about the obligation of all Muslims to subjugate the infidel and their responsibility to wage jihad, and then I've heard people like George Bush quoting peaceful passages from the Qur'an and saying Islam is a religion of peace, and I just wanted to know what the real story was. So read the Qur'an cover to cover.

"It's been a real eye-opener," I said. "First of all, the copy I first started reading jumped around and it was hard to follow. Then I found out that the traditional way to print the book — the traditional order of the chapters — is simply from the longest to the shortest chapter. So I found a book (A Simple Koran) that prints it in the order it was actually written, in chronological order, and it is much easier to follow that way."

Stan looked puzzled. He has a curious, inquiring mind. "I wonder why they printed it that way? That seems like an odd order to print a book."

"Yes," I said. "A secretary for one of the caliphs, I think his name was Zayd, decided that's how to arrange the chapters. Even at the time, people criticized his strange arrangement. But he was the secretary and that's the way he wanted it. Now it's just traditional.

"But something is revealed by reading the book in chronological order that I don't think you would see in the traditional chapter order: You see a dramatic change in the kind of revelations Muhammad has over time."

"Muhammad is the main guy, right?"

"Yes, he's the prophet. He's the one who first recited the Qur'an."

"What changed?" Phil asked. "What do you mean?" They were both curious now. They leaned forward, interested.

Glad to be sharing something so important with two people I care about, I said, "The nature of the revelations changed. And the book I read (A Simple Koran) gives you some of the surrounding history too, so you can see why the revelations changed.

"Muhammad originally lived in Mecca and Muslims were a minority. Obviously when he first started, he and his wife were the only Muslims on earth. Everyone else in the city of Mecca already had their own religions. Muhammad went around preaching his new religion and criticizing everyone else's. People didn't like that."

My friends laughed. Of course people didn't like that. "So after about thirteen years of preaching," I went on, "Muhammad had gained 150 converts, but they were still a minority, and the Muslims' relations with leaders of other religions had become increasingly hostile over the years. It was getting pretty hot around there, so Muhammad moved to Medina, where he had some friends.

"And that's when the revelations really started changing," I said. "For the first three-fourths of the book, the revelations were mostly about heaven and hell and how if you are a good Muslim and follow the rules you'll go to heaven and if you don't follow the rules or if you doubt Muhammad is really the Prophet, you'll burn in hell and the only thing you'll have to drink is boiling water, etc.

"But the last fourth of the book is very different. Once Muhammad gets to Medina, his group starts raiding caravans that are going to Mecca."

"Muhammad did that?" Phil and Stan both looked surprised.

"Yes. Muhammad went on some raids himself, and sometimes he just sent some of his Muslim followers on raids. And they would sometimes kill the men and take the women as slaves, and of course take all the valuable goods in the caravan."

Again, both of them looked shocked. Astonished. Surprised. And yet, it looked as if years of accumulated confusion vanished in an instant. Stan said, "So that's where the terrorists got the idea." Stan has a great sense of humor and he was making a joke, and we all laughed, but that's the light bulb I could see go on in these guys' heads.

I went on. "So they started doing pretty well, financially. Muhammad kept a fifth of the booty from the raids and the rest of the Muslim raiders split up the four-fifths. Muhammad started getting more recruits because this was a pretty sweet gig. He started growing an army. And the revelations changed accordingly.

"Up until this time, Muhammad had been trying to get the Christians and Jews to admit that in their own scriptures, Muhammad's coming had been foretold. His arrival was prophesied in their holy books. He was sure of this, and he wanted the Jews and Christians to say so. He wanted them to validate his legitimate prophethood as one of a long line of prophets (Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc.) but the Christians and the Jews wouldn't validate him.

"So in the first three-fourths of the Qur'an, the revelations are relatively tolerant of Christians and Jews. He was trying to curry their favor. But once Muhammad had an army, and once he realized they would never acknowledge him as a prophet, his revelations became less and less tolerant, and then they became violent.

"Now here's one of the strangest things," I said. "When the nature of the revelations changed, the Qur'an started accumulating contradictions. It had these tolerant passages earlier and then less tolerant passages later. But the Qur'an itself, conveniently enough, has a passage that tells Muslims what to do about this. In the Qur'an, Allah says, 'If something I say now contradicts something earlier in the Qur'an, the later revelation overwrites the earlier one. The earlier one is null and void, and the newer one is the better one.'

"The bad news is the tolerant passages are earlier and the intolerant, violent passages are later.

"So finally I realized how it was possible to have peaceful quotes and violent quotes, both from the Qur'an. The Qur'an is not like the Christian Bible. It isn't written by different people at different times. There are no vague analogies or symbolic passages given to multiple interpretations. It is written by one man and is very direct, straightforward writing. So how could it contain contradictions? Now I know."

"So, wait a minute." Phil looked concerned. "You're saying the peaceful passages don't count any more?"

"Right. They don't count. They have been overwritten by passages that say things like, 'Kill the unbelievers wherever you find them,' which is a passage from the very last revelation of Muhammad.

"Not only that," I said, my head now swimming with things I've discovered that these guys didn't know, "but they're supposed to follow Muhammad's example. It says in the Qur'an, and says it more than seventy times, that Muslims should follow Muhammad's example. He is the model. He's the one to imitate."

"That's not good," said Stan.

"No, that's not good. Muhammad didn't think well of 'monkery.' He didn't think it was a good thing for devoted religious people to seclude themselves in a monastery. He didn't believe in asceticism. He thought that was the lazy coward's way out. According to Allah, you show your devotion — you demonstrate your faith — in the real world by fighting in jihad, fighting for Allah, doing things you're afraid to do, fighting against the unbelievers, working to make sure all governments follow the law of Allah.

"Muhammad believed anyone could talk a good story or say a good prayer, but jihad is putting your money where your mouth is. Do you really believe? Prove it: Risk your life in combat. If you really believe what the Qur'an says then you know when you die in jihad you will go straight to Paradise without judgment, and all your sins will be instantly forgiven. If you are afraid of fighting, war, or death, it proves your unbelief.

"Fighting jihad is so highly valued by Allah that dying in jihad is the only way to guarantee your passage to heaven. You may have a chance to get into heaven if you do good works and do not sin. But if you die fighting against unbelievers, you are guaranteed passage to heaven."

"Wow," said Stan. They both looked amazed. Stunned, really. These are grown men. They read a lot. Both of them are educated, well-informed, successful people. Both are very bright, intelligent men. And they didn't know any of this.

These guys have known me for a long time, so they trusted what I said. They know I'm not a racist or a bigot, and they know I am not prone to fanatacism and I am not a hater. So they accepted what I said with open minds. And what I told them was accurate, as they assumed. But people who hear about it from someone they don't know well might easily dismiss this kind of information. So I recommend to everyone to just read the Koran themselves. That's really the only way to know for sure.

I'm sure I don't have to remind you that this is deadly serious business. It makes a huge difference what people know about Islam. The Jihadis don't want non-Muslims to be made aware this information (they can go about their Jihadi business with less interference if most people remain ignorant of the political goals of Islam) and they now have an "internet jihad" going on, hacking in and trying to shut down sites that alert people to their plans and methods.

Just the two pieces of information — that later passages overwrite earlier ones and that a good Jihadi will deliberately deceive non-Muslims — is enormously clarifying and damaging to their cause. But they can’t hack into your one-on-one conversations, and that’s really where the rubber meets the road.

So read the Koran and share what you learn. And share articles from this site. Let's have an informed population so we can figure out how to peacefully and effectively protect ourselves from the fundamentalist Muslims without being jerks to the peaceful Muslims. Let's stop listening to everyone's opinions and read the Koran ourselves.


  1. important infomation for the common and uncommon man.

  2. I read your site from top of the list to bottom, it was intensely fascinating and clarifying. I've read the traditional Qur'an and found it more than confusing but pressed on to complete it, and with your suggestions for these simplified Korans I will definitely pick up a copy. Thanks for taking time to write all this up.

  3. It has been my pleasure, Edward. All my life I have enjoyed learning things and sharing what I've learned with others. And Islam is the first topic I have ever come across where I've run into a barrier to simply sharing what I'm learning. Some people just do not want to know it, whether because they think I'm a bigot, or they are afraid what I'm saying is true, or because they think because I'm saying this I must be a racist, or whatever.

    It is fascinating information, as you've pointed out. Intensely interesting in itself, but also extremely relevant to current events, which makes it all the more interesting.

    Thank you for your comment. I appreciate that.

  4. ((((Allah says, 'If something I say now contradicts something earlier in the Qur'an, the later revelation overwrites the earlier one. The earlier one is null and void, and the newer one is the better one.'))))

    Please please please just tell me were is this in the quraan, I'v read lots of other articles for you and wrote comments... you probably know I'm a Muslim 18 year old girl from Saudi Arabia... We study Islam there in school but there are lots of thing you wrote here i'v never heard of before.. Excuse me my English is not good but trust me if you convince me that what your saying is true and I've been lied to, then I will leave Islam.. Heres my Email (the personal one that no one opens but me ) miss.bobo.t@gmail.com

  5. Hello Miss Bobo,

    You can read more about the principle of abrogation here, including the two Quran verses the principle has been based on:


    The Quran has been written in a kind of code, making it difficult for anyone to understand except people who study it a lot. Here's more about how the Quran's message is coded:


    These keeps the Imams and scholars in charge.

    Here's more about abrogation, including which passages have been abrogated:


  6. Hi, I'm from Brazil but I like to participate of online discussions in English and that means that I'm often on American forums. I also sometimes watch Fox News International and CNN International. So all in all I'm really interested in what is going on in the world and find it fascinating the way that the Internet allows for everyone to have their opinion heard.

    I came to your site from a google search for "Orthodox Muslim" as I was trying to make a point in an online discussion. I was bothered that many times we see pundits and online commentators referring to "radical Muslims" while it didn't seem fair to me. That's a term that doesn't explain much.

    Recently "the Daily Show" ran a skit on an "American Muslim family" and I followed an online discussion on it on a conservatives' forum and once again I could see people freely blaming all kinds of Muslims irrespective of whether just a minority was to blame or if it was any illuminating to get us to a better world.

    After those events I thought it funny that Gaddafi was apparently blaming "al Qaeda" for his problems in Libya and I posted it on forum forum poking fun on conservatives for how Gaddafi couldn't extend the blame to all Muslims as right-wing in America have seemed to be able to do.

    If those concerned just tried to learn more and to go beyond the snarky remarks maybe we'd all be better off in the long-term.

    Like a poster above, I've read the entire site top to bottom and a few more links. It has helped a bunch. Thanks a lot.

    I'd like to finish this by saying that if Muslims consider their current countries as "Pleasantvilles", maybe trying to force them into taking the "freedom pill" may be over-the-top.

  7. I agree: The term "radical Muslim" is a ridiculously meaningless term, and I wish people would stop using it. I've written an article about that, in fact:

    "Radical" is a Misleading Term

    And I also agree with you that people need to stop blaming "Muslims" and be more specific. Overgeneralizations are the enemy of us all.

  8. You didn't read the Quran.

    You read a translation of it, written by a man.

    I can't believe the "Abrogation Principle". It makes no sence :

    "In the Qur'an, Allah says, 'If something I say now contradicts something earlier in the Qur'an, the later revelation overwrites the earlier one. The earlier one is null and void, and the newer one is the better one.'"

    Really ? We're talking about God, He is not subject to contradictions, He doesn't get entangled with His own words, He doesn't say things that are void of content for any reason.

    I don't like the way you portray the Prophet. You make him sound like a clever bandit, and that's blasphemy. You should quote every source you used in your cool story.

    1. He is a Bandit, a pedophile, a murderer, a rapist, misogynist, and warmonger. Whats the problem? He invented "allah" from a combination of Torah and New testament writings. again, whats the problem?

  9. Well ONE of us didn't read the Koran, but it wasn't me. I read it twice. That's all the source you need to confirm everything I said.

    Many translations are available online.


    Oh, I know, according to some, Arabic is the only language in the world that can't be translated. Hogwash.

    1. Naturally. If someone has a differing opinion it's easy to think or say: 'well you didn't read it the original or you don't have my degree of knowledge'.

      Sure or the other wouldn't have made such a mistake. Yet religious scollers often disagree in any religion. This is a mythopoetc world view to begin with.

  10. Wonderful info. I've learned a number of key point I was not aware of. Thank you

  11. What have I learned? A few years ago after an Act for AMerica meeting a bunch of us went out to eat. A man at my table made the comment that he had read a number of versions of the Koran, everything we learned that day was true, that the Koran is extremely confusing and all over the map (as you write.) BUT,thence said, don't bother reading it. I accepted that, a number of time since then, I have been asked, have you ever read the Koran…and of course, I respond, no.
    So I knew the Koran is confusing, but not the history behind the confusion, nor the solution, read A Simple Koran. Great info.
    And i love your way or sharing, will have to work on learning to do it gently.

  12. It's not a matter of if the Koran is inherently violent or not it's the fact that IT CAN be used to justify thing that go on in Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    Saudi Arabia is a living history experiment on what a society would be like if it were run according to a conservative interpretation of the holy book. Things like :
    Raif Badawi's punishment of 1000 lashes.
    Not allowing women to drive
    Not allowing open Christian worship

  13. It IS the texts.

    And although Islamic scholars squabble over minute details, they agree on the general principles: Islam should reign supreme, and Islamic standards include the subjugation of women and the need for non-Muslims to abide by Islamic standards.

  14. It *is* helpful to read the Koran in its chronological order, because then you can see what came earlier in Mecca and what came later in Medina.

    It's true that the Meccan verses don't advocate violence against the unbelievers and leave vengeance against them up to Allah, unlike in Medina where Mohammad begins the era of jihad. But the Meccan Koran is mostly aimed at how damned people are who don't believe Mohammad's claims and who refuse to follow him. As a reasonable person who has studied logical fallacies, it's so easy to see that the assertions that Mohammad puts forward as "clear proofs" are nothing of the kind. He uses circular reasoning, self referential assertions and threats of punishment in hell as his "clear proofs". But rational thinkers can easily see through these.

    Many times while reading the Medina verses my husband and I (who read it together and would stop to discuss it) would laugh or raise an objection, and moments later, Allah would answer the kaffir who had done the same to Mohammad. So the damned of Mohammad's time saw the same flaws and laughed at the same things that we do today.

    According to the Koran, Allah does not love the unbeliever. It's not bad people, rights violators, that he's talking about. It doesn't matter if you're a decent sort. What matters is that you don't believe what Mohammad, with all his inadequate "clear proofs" asserts to you, that you don't take him on faith while dropping the common sense you were born with. That's what gets you into hell.

    And here's what gets me most about the Meccan verses: Allah says that those who make it to Paradise will be able to look down into hell where the unbelievers are being tortured in horrific ways and mock the poor sods as their skin is peeled off of them over and over and they're forced to drink scalding liquid.

    That's entertainment.

    I don't think I'd like to be in Paradise with people who would find that to be a desirable pastime. Those are mean-spirited brutes, and so is any god who would hate people and punish people for not being able to buy Mohammad's assertions of prophethood. It's a real stomach-turner for a reasonable and just soul to read that stuff.

    You can only call the Meccan Koran "tolerant" in the sense that at that point in the Koran the Muslims are not supposed to punish people for Allah's sake. But it is nevertheless full of condemnation and hatred for those who do not believe Mohammad's claims.

    It's easy to see how *that* attitude towards unbelievers could eventually turn into outright violence against those stubborn people who keep making fun of Mohammad's unsubstantiated claims.

    As far as abrogation goes, I know of the doctrine but I don't think it's necessary because if you see the verses in the context of the Sira - of Mohammad's life story - it's clear that in Mecca Mohammad didn't have enough followers to enforce his religion by violence. He only had about 150 of them by the time he left there. But in Medina he gained many more followers and became *capable* of using the sword to gain more enforcement power. And that's the lesson there: when force doesn't have a good chance of winning, lie low, play nice, try dawa without physical threats. But when you have the means to succeed at war, you *must* then enforce Allah's laws on whomever you can, bring them under Islam's rule.

    It doesn't seem contradictory at all when put into full context. It's only when it's all jumbled up, out of chronological order, and without Mohammad's life story to make sense of it, that it seems contradictory.